So far, so good, or not good, whichever way you look at it, I love the idea of living in China and starting my new life but I miss my children so very much, so much more than when I was traveling for fun. It is all really exciting but there are also many teething problems, from the course itself to Wi-Fi, vpn’s, hostel accommodation, translation problems, bank accounts, phone sims etc. etc.
There are so many differences between the Western world and China that I think I will have to re learn everything from a Chinese perspective. Everything and I mean everything is difficult, there is no familiarity in anything you do or anywhere you go. Usually when you visit any country you always find some kind of comfort in some things which are similar to your own country, like when in a country that speaks another language you can at least decipher some words by comparing them to an English similar word, like toilet and toilette in France but in China that is impossible, because everything is written in symbols. The Chinese have developed a way of writing their symbols in letter form which is called Pinyin which helps people decipher the symbols and it also does make it easier to learn the language BUT it is still hard to translate because Pinyin is not used by natives it’s the symbols that are are used all the time, everywhere, on shop signs, on menus, on street signs, receipts, just everywhere! (not sure why I seem surprised by this)
It is surprising how we subconsciously are able to translate in other countries that have alphabets similar to ours, but we just can’t in China at all and this makes it so much harder to do anything!! The food is very different, none of it looks familiar apart from the rice and noodles, but all the stuff they put in with the rice and noodles is unfamiliar. They have weird liquid with all sorts of stuff floating in it, such as a brown liquid resembling coke with chunks of jelly and brown bits, with cream colour bits sprinkled on the top, it is supposed to be nice but how can we try these things when we have no idea what is in there, it’s so hard to find out, because even when a native who speaks our language, explains the ingredients, we’re still none the wiser because we,ve have never heard of them.
I am a pretty fussy eater so I just have to learn the language in order to eat better, so far I have just been pointing to food which looks familiar, I pointed to something I thought looked like green beans, it turned out to be some kind of melon, which had been pickled and tasted very bitter, I didn’t like it but I’m sure it would have been really good for me.
I need to experiment more and I do intend to when I know more of the Chinese language. I literally can’t learn fast enough.
Today I went to a Chinese supermarket, I bought some apples, crisps, and some sausage things, all the rest of the stuff I had no idea what it was!! I am so lost here, there is so much to learn but it is a huge challenge that I intend to conquer.
Hardly anyone speaks English, not that I think they should, but it just makes things more difficult, they are very helpful and try their best and it is surprising how you can be understood by using some Chinese and mostly hand signals but the language barrier is so, so frustrating, I wish I had learned more before I came.
We have Chinese people helping us to sort everything out but because the Chinese government are so strict on every little thing, it all takes a very long time, there are so many hoops to jump through for everything.
In order to get a visa there is so much you have to do before you even get to the country. I am here on an X1 visa which is a study visa which means I can study and do some work while here, but if I wanted to work full time I would need a Z visa and these are mostly only available to those with degrees and lots more information including DBS checks, Health Certificates etc etc!!
My visa has not been stamped with the amount of days I am allowed to stay, even though I have been granted a visa for a year and this means I cannot open a bank account with the preferred bank because they will not allow me to open it without the number of days displayed on the visa, the only way around it is to get my residents permit which I need to get within 24 hours of moving into my apartment. I am not moving into my apartment till next week.
I tried to get an account with a different bank which was allowed, only because of my circumstances, but for that account I need to have a China phone number, they took my details, filled out the forms then they phone the United Nations to check up on me, if all is ok they then ring me to come back to the bank to open the account.
I need to get a Chinese sim card but even that is complicated and we end up spending hours at China mobile with an interpreter helping us. There are queues everywhere you go and you just have to wait in line. I want to buy a phone over here but everything is in Chinese and you can’t change the settings so I’ll have to give that a miss.
The difficulties settling into a new country are many, but the new culture has many interesting positives, the bike hire system is wonderful, you set up an account on your wechat to scan the QR code of the bike and you just jump on, ride wherever you want, leave the bike there and you get charged for how long you use it, which is usually very little for a whole day. You can find a bike practically anywhere you go, they are left all over the city, there are so many, and you will never have a problem finding one.
Wechat which I already mentioned is similar to WhatsApp, but over here everyone and I mean everyone uses it, not just to communicate but to pay for goods, advertise or market any products, group chats, business group, get togethers, you name it you can do it on WeChat. Even the most rustic trader in the backstreets of Chengdu will accept payment with QR code which means you scan the code into your already set up WeChat bank account and the money goes straight to the vendor.
They seem so advanced technologically but so behind in every other way. They still use squatty toilets, now the last time I was in China we stayed in fancy hotels, such as the Sheraton in Nanjing and the International at Beijing which had proper Western toilets and I naturally assumed that most places did, obviously during my time here we came across the squatties but I stupidly thought that over time they would gradually be replaced with Western toilets. It was 2009 I was here last so you would think that in 8 years they would have caught up right???? Wrong!! How ignorant of me to assume they wanted to, of course they don’t, because they like using their squatties as they find them more hygienic than Western toilets, so there was no intention of “catching up” Stupid me!!!!!
By squatty toilet I mean a hole in the floor with a china toilet bowl inlaid into the hole with ridged areas either side which are supposed to be non-slip, for you to place your feet while you squat over the hole? Apparently this is more hygienic? Hygienic my arse!!! I am petrified of falling in, the non-slip pads are not always non slip and you almost always splash pee on your feet!! Especially if you are out having few drinks!! These toilets are everywhere; you might be lucky and find one single Western toilet at the end of a row of squatties but most often not!! I have stipulated that I don’t mind immersing myself in everything Chinese but I must have a Western toilet in my apartment please, please, please!!!!!
The joys of living in China are many, watching the Tai Chi and Qi gung along the riverbank every morning, hoping one day to join in, the beautiful gardens and parks, the amazing Bonsai gardens. And the people are so friendly, mostly anyway. My first impressions of China this time are mixed, but this time I will be working and studying here for a longer time, whereas the last time I was only here for a month. I’m sure that once I start work the time will go quickly and I will be home with my darling children in no time. Thankfully there is Facebook messenger and Whatsapp so I can contact them whenever, although not too often, don’t want to get on their nerves!!!
There is so much to say about China and I’m sure this will give me so much to write about for the next year! Hope you enjoy learning about this wonderful yet daunting country, through my blog!